City approves body cam purchase for Dickinson Police

Jackie Jahfetson, The Dickinson Press, N.D.
·4 min read

Apr. 8—After a request proposal presented by Dickinson Police Chief Dustin Dassinger, the Dickinson City Commission unanimously approved the purchase of 35 body cameras for the Dickinson Police Department Tuesday, April 6, during its regular scheduled meeting.

In the fall of 2020, the DPD formed a Body Wearing Camera Committee composed of lieutenants, sergeants and patrol officers that tested out six different types of body cameras. After vetting through the six companies and obtaining cost estimates, the committee decided that the Axon Body 3 camera would be the best recommendation as it is the industry leader in police body cameras and the company also manufactures the DPD's Taser X-26P's.

With Axon Enterprise, Inc., there are flexible ownership terms, cloud storage and an advanced replacement program that replaces cameras twice within a five-year span.

Body cameras are officer issued, activated by officers and they capture the approximate representation of what an officer hears and sees. Dassinger noted that the body cameras are meant to act as a "ore-event buffer," intended to document the scene, ensure proper officer conduct and procedures as well as enhance public transparency.

"We've been researching this for several years actually ... and we felt that particularly with the political climate surrounding the law enforcement profession across the nation that the timing was right for it," Dassinger said. "Obviously it's a tool; we still put a lot of emphasis on our initial hiring process, making sure that we hired the right candidates that can make the right decisions, have the integrity and are serving the public in the proper way. Body cameras obviously protect not only the public and the police officers but also help us when we have cases or reports of alleged policy violations or misconduct. It'll be a very nice tool to look back and review the case. There's nothing like actual video footage, as long as you see it in the entirety that document the incident."

Dassinger presented two different funding options for this proposal. Option 1 included spreading the approximate cost of $217,000 of 35 body cameras and licenses over a 5-year contract, by utilizing the funds from the CARES COVID/Law Enforcement Reimbursement fund. Option 2 was a capital option of approximately $217,000. The commission moved forward with Option 1.

Dassinger also briefed the commission on the pros and cons body cameras exhibit. Body cameras are known to assist in officer memory recollection, place juries at the scene and are known to nationally reduce officer complaints and use of force instances. Some of the cons body cameras present are considerable start-up costs, initial training time and costs, ongoing storage cost and heavy reliance and expectation to have footage for prosecution.

City Attorney Christina Wenko said at the meeting that she was in full favor of Dassinger's request for the city to purchase body cameras for the DPD.

"Unfortunately, law enforcement is becoming so technology driven and advanced that we have to essentially go with the flow and get up to speed. Body cameras are becoming the norm in law enforcement; they're expected," Wenko noted, adding, "So I think it's time that we get up to speed and get this technology. Again, I fully support the chief's request for this because it is going to happen and I think the sooner that we can get on board with this, get our officers trained, get the necessary infrastructure in place to deal with this. It's going to be much easier to transition into that process and learn along the way rather than have it thrust on us in the event it eventually becomes required by law."

Dassinger noted, "We have very strong support from the city commission and I think it's a thing of the times. They realize that there is pressure on public safety, law enforcement and they also see what the climate is nationally. So as a police department (and) as a police chief, we're very grateful that the city commission made the decision to move forward at this time with the purchase of body cameras."

The DPD is hoping to finalize implementation of body cameras with personnel by Aug. 1.